After almost 70 years since being labeled by the U.S. military as “undesirable” because he is gay, Melvin Dwork, a World War II Navy veteran, has finally received his “honorable” discharge, reported the Associated Press.
The Navy notified the 89-year-old former corpsman last month that he will now be eligible for the benefits he had long been denied, including medical care and a military burial.
Dwork spent decades fighting to remove the blot on his record.
“I resented that word ‘undesirable,'” said Dwork, who was expelled in 1944, at the height of the war, and is now a successful interior designer in New York. “That word really stuck in my craw. To me it was a terrible insult. It had to be righted. It’s really worse than ‘dishonorable.’ I think it was the worst word they could have used.”
For Dwork, victory came with a heartbreaking truth: Last year, when the Navy finally released his records, he learned that his name had been given up by his own boyfriend at the time.Associated Press, via Navy Times
An estimated 100,000 troops were discharged between World War II and 1993 for being gay, losing their military benefits as a result.
Since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” took effect in 1993, another 14,000 service members were discharged under the policy, but most were given honorable discharges that allowed them to draw benefits.
The action by the U.S. Navy is believed to be the first time the Pentagon has taken such a step on behalf of a World War II veteran since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was certified.
The ban on openly gay service members in the U.S. military officially ends on Tuesday, Sept. 20.